What causes pelvic organ prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when the muscles and tissues that hold your pelvic organs in place get weak or damaged. It is often linked to pregnancy and childbirth. During pregnancy and vaginal delivery, pelvic muscles can get stretched and injured. If the muscles don't recover, they can't support your pelvic organs as well.
Anything that puts pressure on your belly can also increase your risk for pelvic organ prolapse. Things that can put pressure on your belly include obesity, frequent constipation, a long-lasting (chronic) cough, and frequent heavy lifting.
Pelvic organ prolapse can occur when you're young. But it's more likely to happen as you get older. And it's more common after menopause. It also tends to run in families.
How is pelvic organ prolapse diagnosed?
A prolapse of a pelvic organ can be hard to diagnose. Pelvic organ prolapse that doesn't cause symptoms may be found during a routine exam. You may be aware that there's a problem, but you might not be sure of the exact location or cause. If your doctor thinks you may have an organ prolapse, your doctor will ask you questions about your past and current health. This includes questions about your symptoms and your history of pregnancies and other health problems. Your doctor will also do a physical exam, including a pelvic exam.
Tests may be done to find out more about the prolapse, particularly if it's causing problems with bladder or bowel function. These may include urodynamic tests and imaging tests, such as ultrasound or MRI.
How is pelvic organ prolapse treated?
Decisions about treating pelvic organ prolapse are based on which organs have prolapsed and how bad your symptoms are. You may not need or want treatment.
If your symptoms are mild, you may be able to relieve them at home.
- Try Kegel exercises. These can make your pelvic muscles stronger.
- Reach and stay at a healthy weight.
- Avoid lifting heavy things. This can put stress on your pelvic muscles.
If these changes don't help, you can ask your doctor to fit you with a pessary. It's a removable device that you can put in your vagina to support areas of prolapse.
Surgery may be an option if symptoms don't get better with other treatments or if you prefer surgery over other treatments. But you may want to delay surgery if you plan to get pregnant in the future. The strain of childbirth could cause the prolapse to come back.